Making Beads for Handmade Jewellery

For centuries, men and women have adorned themselves with precious metals and jewels. Today the modern jewellery designer uses a variety of materials, that may include, glass beads, gemstones, polymer clay, resin and textiles, to name but a few.

Firstly let's look at glass beads. The first glass was formed 40 million years ago by heat and immense pressure from erupting volcanoes. Nobody knows when the first man made glass came about, though it is believed to be around 3500 BC, with the oldest bead dating back 40,000 years. Glass is a versatile material that can be moulded and stretched to form different shapes; it can also be etched, polished and cut.

Millefiori glass, developed by the Romans, was made by fusing many glass rods together to create a cane. Once heated, these canes were stretched to miniaturize the pattern; slices were then cut from the cane to decorate the beads. In the 13thcentury the Venetians, who were very secretive about their glassmaking, moved the entire industry to the island of Murano. Although the Venetians dominated the glassmaking industry, other Europeans also manufactured glass beads, Czechoslovakia being one of them. Czech glass beads date back to the 11thcentury and are renowned for their excellent craftsmanship. Made from quality glass the vivid colours will not fade and are consistent throughout.

Glass making tools and materials are now readily available, with many talented lampworkers, making individual glass beads. The glass used for bead making is sold in rods and comes in a variety of transparent and opaque colours. Lampworkers use oxygen-propane torches to heat and melt the glass rods onto a stainless steel rod called a mandrel. Once the glass is heated it becomes soft and can then be formed into different shapes, using a variety of hand tools. Once the bead is formed it needs to cool slowly or it will crack if it is cooled too quickly. To do this the beads need to be placed between layers of insulating blanket or vermiculite heated in a slow cooker. Beads can also be annealed in a kiln to slowly cool.

Another material that can look like glass is resin, though it carries less weight. Resin belongs to the plastics family and is made from organic polymers that can occur naturally in tortoiseshell, horn and amber. Clear casting resin can be used to trap flowers and other inclusions and can be built up in layer. It can be coloured using translucent paste and can be poured into moulds of any shape. Once cured it can be filed sanded and drilled to give the desired finish.

Polymer clay is another material that can be used for bead making. It is soft modelling clay, made from particles of polyvinyl chloride, combined with plastisizers, fillers, colouring agents and gels. There are a number of brands available, in a large range of colours that can be mixed to give an even greater colour palette. It is cured by baking in a conventional oven and once baked it can be sanded carved and drilled.

Before the clay can be used, it must be conditioned to distribute all the ingredients. This can be done by twisting and rolling by hand or passing through a pasta machine a number of times. You can tell if the clay has been conditioned enough by folding it in half after it has been passed through the pasta machine. If it cracks on the fold, it needs further conditioning until no cracks appear. Once conditioned it can be coloured using alcohol inks, acrylic paint, pigment and metallic powders. Polymer clay also comes in liquid form and can be coloured using pigment powders, then used for stained glass effects and to add texture to the beads.


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How To Buy Good Quality Round Lampwork Beads

Round lampwork beads are handcrafted beads and popular components of various jewelry pieces. You will find these used in beaded bracelets, necklaces and other jewelry, and are usually sold over the internet. They are also sold in many local stores, where the artisans bring their creations for sale. The quality of lampwork gems is dependent upon the expertise of its maker. You can choose to buy a beaded jewelry in any style that appeals to you. Just do not forget that style is not the only consideration when buying handcrafted jewelry.

Before you can buy a lampwork gems, you must have a first hand information on how these gems are made. To begin the handcrafting, gem makers melt the tips of glass rods through the use of a torch. As the rod melts, fluid glass is winded around a narrow rod made of stainless steel, called the mandrel. Upon removing the bead, the space occupied by the mandrel becomes the hole in the bead - this is the hole used in stringing the beads into jewelry.

From the flame, the glass gem should be allowed to cool slowly at a right temperature because otherwise, cracks will develop on the round lampwork beads and this will pose a problem for the buyers. The process of cooling the bead slowly to prevent brittleness is called annealing.

When you are in the market for lampwork gems, check for bubbles found inside them. Some makers use air bubbles on beads as design elements. You decide if you want these bubbles present on your beads, because these can turn on into cracks later. Also make sure that the hole of the gems is free of jagged edges - eventually, they can cut through beading wire. To be on the safe side, you should check the overall appearance of the gems. See if the shapes are all pleasing. There can be some variations because they are handcrafted, but they should look attractive and their sides fit against the sides of other ornaments used.

Bead release is a thick coating placed by the lampwork makers on the mandrel to remove the beads easily. Bead release prevents sticking of gems to the mandrel. If you are buying a completed piece of round lampwork jewelry, take a look at the holes. All signs of the bead release should have been removed by the craftsman who made it. If you see it is still there, then it is an indication of lack of care. It will also make you wonder if there are other careful steps that were not taken.



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Glass Beads and Their Types

Glass beads, as the name suggests are the beads made of glass. The processes that go into the formation of these glass balls generally include lamp-working, molding, blowing, furnace heating, and so on. These days, glass beads are extensively used for making various types of jewelry items like earrings, necklaces, bangles, anklets, bracelets, etc.

Glass beads exhibit simplicity, consistency and beautification in design. More than a symbol of beauty they intimate affection, care and concern. These tiny glass balls are like gifts, which transfer feelings and emotions. They found their use in a number of things, out of which jewelry and decoration items are the primary ones.

Nowadays, aesthetically designed glass balls are available in different colors, shapes and sizes. They are available in many options from oval, round to silver foil. These varieties allow the customer to choose the beads of his own taste and preference. Glass beads necklaces and other jewelry items add an attractive quality to your persona. Alternatively, you can gift them to someone special as a sign of love and affection.

Popular Glass Beads Types
There are numerous types of beads made of glass available nowadays in the market. Some popular types out of them are mentioned under:

Artistic Style - Also known as handcrafted glass beads, the artistic style beads come in a variety of designs, patterns and prints. These glass balls, according to their name, exhibit much more artistry than any other bead. They are multicolored and available in different shapes like square, cylinder, discs and twists.

Fish Shaped -Fish shaped or fish glass beads resemble a fish by their fin and tail like structure. They are usually fabricated from high quality soft glass and usually possess a small hole in the middle portion. These glass balls can be obtained in a multitude of designs and colors.

Alphabet Shaped - Also known as letter beads, alphabet glass beads are shaped like English alphabets or possess a carved letter over them. These beads provide a personalized touch to the jewelry items like necklaces and pendants. One may choose the alphabets to form his/her name and get them strung in the appropriate jewelry item.

Heart Shaped - These beads are perfect for expressing your emotions towards your sweetheart. The heart shape is unique in itself and it usually appeals to the emotions of a person, and when it's heart shaped glass bead, it exerts a magical influence over a person, especially women. A heart bead necklace is an ideal gift for the valentines day.

Crystal Beads - These beads are fine quality beads, having a sparkling look. They are pleasing, elegant and magnificent by their very nature. These beads are mostly used to create jewelry items like necklaces, bracelets, pendants and earrings. The crystal beads are often found in diamond, round and cube shapes.

Venetian Beads - They are one of the most demanded varieties of beads made of glass. They are known for their vibrant colors, intricate patterns, and exotic designs. These beads are also called Murano beads as their origin is in the Murano Island, Venetian Lagoon, Italy. They are primarily used for making jewelry items and decorative objects.



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